by Kostas Barbas, Dimitris Kaltsas, Christos Minos, Petros Papadogiannis, Goran Petrić, Tasos Poimenidis, Lefteris Statharas, Giannis Voulgaris
Translation: Lefteris Statharas, Tasos Poimenidis
The loss of Sean Reinert came without warning, unfairly and of course very very early. In the conscience of those who were following his steps, there had always been a certainty that any new step in his career would be very interesting. And that’s because the approach of this drum giant from Miami, in any project that he was a part of, was thorough and had an overwhelming freshness.
In the beginning of the ‘90s alongside his best friend and classmate, Paul Masvidal, and of course Sean Malone, they gave a completely new, very technical, aspect to extreme metal, just after its first appearance on record. He named his main influences as John Bonham, Terry Bozzio, Dave Weckl and Neil Peart, and participated in the Rush tribute album Working Man (Magna Carta, 1996) playing Red Barchetta with Sean Malone, Steve Morse, James Labrie and James Murphy. This is an eternal tribute to the professor, the most definite ‘must’ influence of any prog (and not only) drummer, that was destined to die only 17 days before Sean…
Through his own path, Reinert was also an inspiration and very decisive for the shaping of prog drumming during the last 30 years. The discographic landmarks of his career with Death, Cynic, Gordian Knot, Anomaly, Aghora and Æon Spoke vary in style, and sadly, he didn’t record anything as a member of Perfect Beings.
Let’s remember the 10 most important albums in the career of the late great Sean Reinert.
Death – Human
The first official release featuring Sean Reinert was Death’s Human at 1991. After the demise of the previous line-up Chuck Schuldiner brought in the picture three of his closest friends, Reinert, Paul Masvidal (guitar) and Steve DiGiorgio (bass guitar) who also happened to be three of the most brilliant and exciting musicians in the metal scene. The chemistry the four of them developed, together with a natural will to push the boundaries of death metal flourished into a phenomenal record, full of intensity and progressive tone. Sean’s drumming was unpreceded at the time in metal music. Such a combination of speed, power, finesse, metronome-like sense of timing, musicality and total control of the instrument was almost nowhere to be found back then and something extremely rare, not only in metal but in music in general. The nineteen year old drummer possessed the athletic ability of players like Dave Lombardo combined with jazz fusion and prog rock influences from players like Gary Husband, Allan White and Neil Peart, all fused into one innovative player with a very distinct sound. On top of his phenomenal performance in this record was his sense of musicality that completely fitted in the songs. Every drum fill, double bass pattern and ride cymbal sequence has a meaning and a purpose to fulfill in this record. He definitely raised the bar of metal drumming very high and his influence through this record is one of the most important ones. An absolute classic and a milestone in metal music.
Cynic – Focus
[Roadrunner Records, 1998]
The release of Focus from Cynic imprints the inclination for change that was usually around the extreme metal area. With bands like Atheist they dared to disturb the waters of the “orthodox” space with results now being considered a classic. An impression that is amplified by the fact that the one and only release from Cynic for a long time, was a landmark.
What happens in Focus is a pure effort of experimentation that engulfs the meeting of the thriving death metal of the era with jazz, dressed with philosophical and high quality lyrics. The existence of Sean Reinert was crucial, his way of playing that was tiptoeing between metal and jazz was unparalleled. The weird vocals and the general atmosphere of the album are something new. Elements that were introduced to the metal scene for the upcoming years.
Focus is one of the albums that could be rightly characterized as “ahead of the curve”. Today is the era that these albums preached and they are more anhydrous than we expected. The element of surprise is long gone. Whatever is now considered progressive is usually drawn from the past and the museum of great moments in which Focus is prominently shown.
Anomaly – Anomaly
[Mandamus Records, 1998]
From the album cover, the only Anomaly record fills every aspect of a 90s progressive metal “lost gem”, coming from Tampa, the origin of the American death metal scene. The two main band members Jim Dorian (vocals) and Jim Studnicki (guitar), asked help from Reinert and Malone to release a high-quality progressive metal album. The style of Anomaly has many characteristics that the genre had at the time, but being quite diverse so that a listen today is more than pleasant. The vocals of Dorian definitely “smell” 90s, having a very convincing melodic hard rock vibe. This hard rock feeling exists in the guitar playing of Studnicki that hasn’t sacrificed the melodic aspect of his playing while he stays quite technical. The inventive use of the acoustic guitar and it’s correct placement in the songs is another benefit. In this frame, Reinert and Malone elevate the performing aspect of the album, influencing at the same time with their personality, the final artistic footprint. Paying attention to Reiner, it’s clear that he’s restrained for his standards, managing at the same time to imprint his character in the essence of the songs, with a great example being the instrumental Pictures. What stands out in Anomaly is from many underground releases of the time is the compositions, while it’s a pleasant surprise the correct cover of The Rain Song of Led Zeppelin being accompanied by a string quartet.
Gordian Knot – Gordian Knot
The project from members of Cynic proved that the special musical offer of Focus was not an accident. With Gordian Knot of Sean Malone, their specific weight extended through extreme metal, since they stood next to titans of the general progressive spectrum. In their first, self-titled album there are concentrated some great songs that stretch between progressive rock and jazz/fusion, with an important metal essence of course. One could say that it’s a fusion version of King Crimson, without actually fully characterizing the style of the album. The most important thing is that the unprecedented technical prowess of everyone doesn’t overshadow the compositional aspect. The use of fretless bass and Chapman stick is one of their main characteristics, with John Myung and Trey Gunn completing Malone, while in some instances they all play simultaneously with Gunn helping in songwriting Despite the absence of Masvidal, the album doesn’t lack in guitar themes, with Ron Jarzombek, Adam Levy and Glenn Snelwar managing to be very well placed in the web that the three aforementioned spiders had weaved. While there are many string players, Reinert is the only drummer here, being quite present in the intense moments. His mathematical playing shines in tracks like the amazing Reflections, Singularity and the prog fusion masterpiece Rivers Dancing. It’s not a mistake that these are the three tracks that he has co-written.
Aghora – Aghora
Aghora was put together by Berklee trained guitar virtuoso Santiago Dobles along with ex-Cynic members Sean Reinert on drums and Sean Malone on bass. Their debut was released in 2000. The sound scheme of these guys was very different from other prog metal bands at that time. Aghora delivered highly technical progressive metal which includes some latin and oriental touches. The band was fronted by the soothing voice of Danishta Rivero. This unique approach was great way for Malone and Reinert to channel their creative energies in a way different from that of Cynic and Death respectively. Sonically, the album is very fluid. It brings the intensity when it wants but also there are atmospheric and beautifully relaxing parts. Sean Reinert feels like the standout in an album full of masterful performance. His beats are very catchy and pretty soothing. His rhythmic changes are unpredictable and intelligent. Most jazz drummers would be envious of his extraordinary displays here. After listening to Satya, Existence, Mind’s Reality it’s perfectly clear that Malone and Reinert once again proved the power of synergy and definitely had something special between them. Undoubtedly, the debut of Aghora is a must listen for anyone interested in complex and truly progressive music.
Gordian Knot – Emergent
The second album of Gordian Knot struck like lightning. The mix of rock and jazz having melody as the basis and the fact that it was far from deliberate makes you fall in love with the genre. Although, we don’t have the same plethora of people like the first album, this doesn’t mean that this album is Sean Malone’s personal project. It is musically as wide and as special as the self-titled debut, while it reminds us of the melodic aspects of Cynic, but more rock, more prog, more dreamy, which due to the abilities of the musicians it creates an amazing experimental rock/metal album, and not just a musical mix. A landmark album and Sean Reinert helped a lot even though he had a small part in it. He shares the drum kit with Bill Bruford but still in A shaman’s Whisper and Fisher’s Gambit he shines. The way he uses the cymbals, the trademark playing (left leg on a hi-hat and frame at the same time) and the melodic patterns in the drums that embellish the tracks and they escape from the simple or technical rhythm, they make Sean Reinert stand out from the wide mass of drummers. The biggest achievement however, or rather the fact that he was a superb drummer, is evident by the fact that he played in the same album as Bull Brufford without sounding inferior.
Aghora – Formless
[Dobles Productions, 2006]
After a gap of six years, the somphmore release of Aghora was entitled Formless. Some members have come and gone but technicality, a wide range of influences and creative songwriting remained as the main characteristics of their sound. The band found a really good replacement for former lead vocalist Danishta Rivero in Diana Serra. Her vocals on the album are beautiful and, unexpectedly, suit the music perfectly. Co-Produced by the famous Neil Kernon, Formless features so many great shredding solos and chunky riffs by Santiago and also fluid transition between heavier and calm passages. The biggest minus is the bass sound which is more in traditional metal style. The absence of Sean Malone is very evident and shows how important he was for the brilliance of the previous record. Sean Reinert contributed only in the half of the songs. Sean is quite discreet in the speediest and most twisted passages, while he is very present in the quieter moments, just his stunning work on 1316 and Fade makes these two songs the best in the album. Despite the fact that band had lost much of its unique charm, this is a great prog metal album and another testimony of Sean Reinert’s incredible talent.
Æon Spoke – Above the Buried Cry
[Mercy Stroll Recordings, 2004]
The formation of Æon Spoke with Paul Masivdal as the leader was something different for the gang from Miami, that here left the complex technical playing aside. The hyper melodic alternative, indie pop/rock elements mainly and prog rock elements subsequently was a big surprise for everyone. Here Reinert plays keyboards, while his drumming is simple but crucial. His approach might be commercial for the first time in the career of the two former schoolmates, but their artistic level is unquestionable.
The short career of Æon Spoke was completed with their second album, that has seven from the ten albums of Above the Buried Cry, among which Pablo At The Park Grace, Silence Yellowman and of course the beautiful Nothing, the best composition of the group.
The success of the commercial effort was translated in soundtracks of films and tv series. Though the music of the project that today might sound outdated and too melancholic, the value of the songs is unquestionable. It’s worth noting that Chris Tristram who plays bass in half the songs of Above The Buried Cry is the later base player in the first two albums of Perfect Beings.
Æon Spoke – Æon Spoke
In the second and last album of Æon Spoke, Sean Reinert and Paul Masvidal explore a post-rock / indie / alternative path, with the result being quite interesting. The atmospheric sound, the melancholic mood and the whole “dreamy” style of the music is probably not the best way to showcase their technical capabilities as musicians, but here is where the small or big trap lies. In how each musician can play the “right” notes and help as a team member the composition. Here we can see another aspect of the musical perception of a great musician, Sean Reinert, that without having to prove anything with his big backlog, he manages to color the composition with his clear sound. However, the small outbreaks are not missing, of course in comparison with the whole style of the project, like in Sand and Foam where the hits of Reinert in the drum stand out from the rest of the instruments.
The self titled album of Æon Spoke reveals a different aspect of the artist Sean Reinert and it kind of completes his whole discography, as a research topic of a complete drummer. It could be said that he belongs in the same school of thought as Ringo Starr by being simple but always substantially.
Cynic – Traced in Air
[Season of Mist, 2008]
So, what could someone expect from a Cynic comeback after 15 years? No matter how tampered the expectations were, this album continues the myth that Cynic created with their debut. A stimulating injection of music that for 34 minutes keeps you guessing about what’s next. Death metal riffs, are still present with the rhythm section of Malone and Reinert showing that they’re probably one brain just split in two since they interact with each other flawlessly, creating something unique. The vocals are vastly different than Focus since they are mostly “clean” and they seem to have quite an electronic influence. The fact that the runtime is short makes every song in the album a diamond in the rough with no filler moments. Layers built upon layers with extreme depth with each instrument serving its purpose in the song. There is a reason that death metal drumming is one of the hardest drumming techniques someone can learn. And that reason is Sean Reinert. The way he combines extreme and jazz drumming is once again apparent in Traced in Air and there are multiple times where you could focus on the drumming and just be fascinated. Evolutionary Sleeper, Integral Birth (the intro is just perfect) and even the more mellowed down Nunc Stans is a perfect showcase of the restless Sean Reinert.